The Waterman/woman – how to avoid being skunked

Tez PLavenieks testing Fanatic's Ray 11ft SUP Disillusionment can be a killer. Without wanting to sound negative: too much of a good thing can (sometimes) be a bad thing. Picture the scene: you and your mates have just had an epic sesh - banging waves, an awesome downwinder, gnarly high volume white water shenanigans, a sun drenched glassy flat water sweep or whatever. Buzzing like the National Grid the feeling of stoke lasts for days. Sleep is hard to come by as each stroke, turn, glide and carve is replayed in glorious HD technicolour. Endorphins are red lining through your system and the only goal you have is nailing another hole in one SUP sesh - talk about crack heads; they've nothing on a stoked paddler.

As the high starts to wear off forecasts are perused, weather charts scoured and plans made for another hit. And it’s at this point the wheels start to come off. What was a near guaranteed five star def con one repeat scenario has suddenly gone south – literally. That dart board shaped low pressure, about to deliver the goods imminently, has been shoved aside by Mr High Pressure. Perfect swell direction, on the money wind and a decent level of sunshine to boot have now been replaced by an iffy wave angle, dodgy winds and a risk of rain. But wait; all’s not lost yet, this forecast still has four days to play out and we all know things can (and often do) change. Optimism still intact then.

Hayling Island SUP Waves

Unfortunately law of sod dictates that as much as you will predictions to improve they only deteriorate and 12 hours out of your window that once golden chart has now fizzled to nothing but a damp squib.

The day in question dawns; even as the journey is made through the mizzle and mist, your thoughts willing conditions to rebuff what Magicseaweed was telling the millionth time you checked, in your heart you know you’re skunked. Sure enough, pulling up to the put in, there’s a slight onshore dribble rolling in, with the heavens now starting to open properly and a bunch of previously optimistic paddlers (just like you) staring forlornly though their windscreens.

As frustration builds you force the urge to punch something back down into the pit of your stomach. Hey! You tell yourself, trying to remain upbeat, there’s always next time. Just before leaving the beach, readying yourself for the 9-5 humdrum daily grind, a quick sneak peek at the long range forecast reveals a mouth-watering chart – hey, there’s always next time.

The trouble is: weather in the UK has the annoying habit of being unpredictable. Sure, we may get an idea of what general conditions are going to be like – which is fine for the masses who simply want an umbrella heads up – but for those of us sifting for fine details it becomes almost impossible. Having scored that magic session all those week before, getting skunked has now become the norm. A cranky attitude has replaced a once buoyant mood and that chirpy happy go lucky paddler is replaced by a surly and miserable moaner.

Friends, family and colleagues don’t get it, your whining falling on deaf ears should you try and explain. In fact, when justification is offered it sounds absurd, even as the words come tumbling out of your pursed lips. Surf giant Billabong put it succinctly: ‘Only a surfer knows the feeling’.

Sick Stick SUP test Hayling Island

The situation described has no doubt a familiar ring. You can adapt the story to suit your preferred discipline, personal skill level and global location. Fine print may have subtle differences but the fact is: all of us get skunked. The better we become at our chosen sport, the more gnarly the conditions we ride in have to be. Higher adrenaline level wants make it harder to score relevant conditions and quench our thirst.

It’s at this point we should take a step back and take a leaf out of the books of great watermen and women…

We’re all as guilty as the next surf addicted wave junky of trying to force that next magical session. Yet there’s no twisting Mother Nature’s arm into delivering the goods. If she wants to gift you two months of relentless offshore flatness then so be it. If after these two months you do finally get waves, only to have them accompanied by annoying side shore breeze then suck it up.

To combat the fluctuating and inconsistent UK weather it’s a good idea to  have a variety of ocean going toys at your disposal. Rather than relying on one discipline live by the mantra: tools for the job. Riding multiple water going craft allows the opportunity of making the most of conditions during any given day. On top of this maybe have a couple of dry land activities to supply a diversion when weather and on water conditions halt H2O activity.

Tez Plavenieks windsurfing Hayling Island

Chopping and changing between complimentary hobbies also has beneficial effects across sports. An overall ocean awareness is a good thing. Being comfortable in a range of saltwater environments will only instil confidence. And choosing to practice a land pastime allows muscles and body parts to rejuvenate and mend. Rather than smashing yourself silly by repeating the same movements, switching things about means you can come back to your other forms of riding fresh as a daisy. Plus it stops your body getting used to one particular thing and is therefore more beneficial from a fitness point if view.

So the next time you’re about to chuck all your toys out of the pram from being skunked by Momma Nature one too many times: take a deep breath and consider whether there’s something else you could be doing – equally as fun – that will help pass the time until that next ‘all time score’.

Slyde hand planes bodysurfing


Pic: Slyde Handplanes


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